Hospital system's win boosts entire region

By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – When North Mississippi Health Services earned the nation’s highest honor for business earlier this month, the entire region gained.
“The Baldrige reflects on the people who live here,” said John Heer, North Mississippi Health Services president and chief executive officer. “… It extends beyond the health care arena.”
The Baldrige National Quality Improvement Program emphasizes a rigorous, quality improvement process that examines leadership, planning, customer-focus, tracking results, developing employees and managing their production or processes as well as results. Organizations find it valuable because it helps create and sustain alignment – having the entire organization from administration to front-line employees on the same page.
“We tell organizations that if you’re in it to win an award, don’t bother,” said Harry Hertz, director of the Baldrige Performance Program at the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Since the award was created in 1988, well-known companies like Motorola, Ritz-Carlton Hotels, FedEx and Merrill Lynch have won the award, which is sometimes called the Nobel Prize for business.
When the Tupelo-based hospital system’s flagship North Mississippi Medical Center-Tupelo won the award in 2006, it definitely helped raise the national profile of the region.
“I use it as effectively as I can. It demonstrates a level of quality many people don’t expect in Mississippi or a rural community,” said David Rumbarger, president and CEO of the Community Development Foundation, a key driver in the region’s economic development efforts. “It’s like winning a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.”
NMMC-Tupelo and North Mississippi Health Services are now in another elite group of companies including AT&T, Cargill, Xerox and Motorola, that can claim two Baldrige awards in the corporate family.
“That will be in our presentations,” Rumbarger said.
In addition to increased national standing, the culture Baldrige companies foster can have a very real impact on local economies, Hertz said.
The national Baldrige program looked at five companies that had won the Baldrige twice and compared them to their industries. Between the first and second time the companies won the awards, the Baldrige winners had a mean job growth of 63 percent. Their industries for the same time periods had a mean job growth of 3 percent.
“They had a very direct return,” Hertz said. “They benefit the economy directly by hiring more people.”
The quality-based award reflects the quality of the workforce, which is a “long-term win” for the community, Rumbarger said.
Business Editor Dennis Seid contributed to this report



SOME FINDINGS
from consultant Tripp Muldrow’s downtown Tupelo housing study:
• There are a variety of price points downtown. There is a market in the lower price brackets. Houses less than $150,000 are moving.
• Young people – people you want to attract – are moving to Robins Street and Joyner Avenue.
• As far as people moving to Saltillo, there are going to be folks who want the country lifestyle and the big house on the big lot. You have to market to people who enjoy living in a city.
• Two audiences to target: empty-nesters with no kids and young professionals, with and without kids.
• Fairpark needs more smaller, cottage-style homes.
• Existing Fairpark residents are concerned about maintaining value of what is there now.
• Current Fairpark homeowners were sold on the idea of a mixed-used community. It hasn’t materialized. There was a lot of publicity about Fairpark and what was going to develop, but the area isn’t being marketed now. More publicity is needed.
• Overall, there is a positive impression of Tupelo. The city invests in things. There is vision. There was an enthusiasm in the focus groups.

michaela.morris@journalinc.com